Banned Books: Steinbeck & the The Library Bill of Rights

Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

Good morning!  Today is Day Six of Banned Books Week, and I’m back with one of my favorite books of all time:  The Grapes of Wrath!

Of course I’d have to address this book!  In fact, I’m sure you were expecting it.  When my own book takes place in the same era and also addresses victims of the Dust Bowl, how could I possibly not shout out to Steinbeck, the Joad family, and all Okies out there?!

But first, a disclaimer:  By mentioning The Grapes of Wrath alongside my own novel, The Edge of Nowhere, I am in no way making comparisons.  Though my novel is set during the same era and was, in many ways, inspired by Steinbeck’s novel, there is just no comparison.  Nobody could compare to Steinbeck.  He was a master at his craft.  He seemed to intuitively understand human nature, and all of his…

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Banned Books Week Day 5: Judy Blume

Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

Today marks Day Five of Banned Books Week, and how could we possibly come close to finishing out the week without commenting on one of the most well-loved and most-challenged author for several decades running:  Judy Blume.

If you were ever a child (and isn’t that every one of us), then Judy Blume’s name is at least familiar to you.  She wrote the books that helped many of us get through adolescence.  She was the adult in our lives who told us that our experiences were normal!  She told us about the facts of life, and she told them to us straight.  And we appreciated and loved her for it.  But, for her efforts, she’s been one of the most challenged authors ever.

My childhood would not have been complete without many of Blume’s books.  She was part of the “village” that raised me.  Among my favorites were:

  • Are You…

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Banned Books Day 4: Captain Underpants!

Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

Here we are at day four of Banned Books Week!  Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite books written for young readers:  Captain Underpants!

Really?  Captain Underpants?  Yes!  Captain Underpants!  I love these books!  I loved them roughly fifteen years ago when my daughter (now 19) brought the first one home and, since then, I’ve loved every one I’ve seen.  I couldn’t wait until my 11 year-old son was ready for them!

Artwork by author Dave Pilkey to celebrate his character's love of reading and banned books Artwork by author Dav Pilkey to celebrate his character’s love of reading and banned books

Why do I like them?  Because they’re funny, and because they capture the interests of young and reluctant readers.  I remember sitting up late one night with my mother-in-law — long after my daughter had gone to bed — as we laughed so hard we cried over some of the antics of Pilkey’s characters.  They were…

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Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

Good morning!  Today I return to my favorite subject and the topic for this week: Banned and Challenged Books!  Can there be any better topic for discussion ever?

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdJust about anyone who knows me at all knows that my favorite book in the entire world is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I’ve said many times that this book — more than any other influence in my life — shaped the person I am today.  The lessons of tolerance, acceptance and understanding are deeply ingrained in the adult I have become; and I owe a huge debt to Ms. Lee and my high school English teachers for those lessons.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been widely challenged in the 50-odd years since its publication.  Before we can understand why it’s been challenged, first let me tell you a little about the book for those who haven’t read it.

To Kill…

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Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

In honor of Banned Books Week, I have decided to dedicate this entire week to celebrating banned and challenged books.

The_Immortal_Life_Henrietta_Lacks_(cover)This morning as I was trying to decide which topic or book to cover in celebration of challenged and banned books, I ran across an article that completely shocked me.  Just in time for this week’s celebration, a parent in Tennessee has challenged one of the best books I’ve ever read:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

First let me tell you that I don’t like non-fiction in general.  With that said, I will now tell you that Henrietta Lacks is not only non-fiction, but is also one of the most memorable books in my overflowing library of books I’ve read.  Knowing this about me should tell you that it must be a really wonderful book to be on my list of best books ever.

Author Rebecca Skloot Rebecca Skloot


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Originally posted on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog:

Heads up everyone!  Today begins National Banned Books Week, a week set aside each year to celebrate the freedom to read freely.  Hmmm…the freedom to read freely.  What does that mean?  Doesn’t the First Amendment give us that  right?

BBW-logo-1Each year in the United States, scores of books are “challenged” by schools and libraries nationwide.  The reasons are too vast to list them all, but it frequently comes down to one person in a community who feels that the content of a book is inappropriate reading material for the masses.  He takes his concerns to the school, or library, or wherever the book is placed, and asks that it be removed.

What?  This is 2015!  Surely that doesn’t happen today!

It not only does happen, it happens frequently.  Two such cases happened right here in the town I reside; and both within the last few years.

1294_coverThe first is a…

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No time for tea!

Title: Deanna Raybourn A Curious Beginning (Sept 2015)Publisher: Penguin NAL: Signet Romance 352 pp

Genre: mystery, historical mystery, fiction, Victorian suspense

4+ stars


Deanna Raybourn is well known for her Lady Julia Grey series, beginning with Silent in the Grave (2007), which have been nominated for and won numerous awards. It was recently (April 2015) optioned for UK television series. (There are 6 books and several novellas). She has several other stand alone novels which are entertaining and richly detailed. A Curious Beginning features Miss Veronica Speedwell and is the start of a new series (the second is already at the editors). Raybourn also writes an interesting blog and is now on tour. 

Story Line:

Veronica Speedwell has a passion for lepidoptery (not moths!), and created an unusual career capitalizing on the Victorian obsession with collecting specimens. With the death of her guardian she is thrown into a mystery that appears to involve her unknown parents. Orphaned at a few months, she was cared for by two maiden aunts who themselves carried secrets. Break ins and murder find her in 1887 London where she puts her intelligence and talents into solving these crimes. She shares this adventure with the rather mysterious natural historian, explorer and scholar Stoker, aka the Honourable Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane.  

Speedwell is a rather modern female Sherlock Holmes but is modeled after Victorian female explorers who were independent and foreword thinking. As is Stoker. There is clever, witty dialogue and black humour which create a fast paced fun story. Charming descriptions, a hint of romance, never a dull moment with attempted abductions, robbery, murder, secrets, general mayhem, contribute to a neat read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as all her other books, and look forward to the next installment.

Read On:

To the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (still one of the best!)

To Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) by Laurie R King

To Lady Jane Grey series by Deanna Raybourn 


Opening line:

I stared into the open grave and wished I could summon a tear.

…a figure at the lych-gate, tall and beautifully erect, with the sort of posture a gentleman of aristocratic breeding or enthusiastic besting at excellent schools.

…in every village no matter how peaceful and pretty, there was always someone to wag a tongue and pass judgement.

Overtime, I developed a set of rules from which I never deviated. Although I permitted myself dalliances during my travels, I never engaged in flirtations in England…foreign bachelors were my trophies, collected for their charm and good looks as well as their attentive manners. They were holiday romances, light and insubstantial.

There ought to have been a frisson of foreknowledge, a shiver of precognition that the choice to accompany the baron would prove the single most significant decision of my entire life.

Miss Speedwell, I have hiked the length of the Amazon River. I have been accosted by native tribes and shot twice. I have nearly met my death by quicksand and snakebite, poisoned arrow and one particularly fiendish jaguar. And I have never, until this moment, been quite so surprised by anything as I am by you.

Are you familiar with the intrepid lady travelers? Women like Isabella Bird and Marianne North?

In my experience Americans were very friendly and very fond of their firearms.

You cannot discount a theory simply because it does not suit your prejudices, he reminded me. That is bad science.

I could sooner influence the sun to set in the east, Sir Hugo. She is entirely her own woman.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!  
Veronica (common name Speedwell) is the largest plant genus in the family Plantaginaceae (500 sp). It is edible and nutritious, used as tea for asthma. You might know it as the weed which out competes lawn grass.